Discipline,  Inspiration,  Observation

The Extraordinary Ordinary A Guest Post by TLC Nielsen


We all know someone with the gift of gab.

In my family, my mother can start a conversation with strangers and have their life story in under 5 minutes. When we visited Downtown Disney a few years back, I watched my mother in action as she talked with a store clerk, asking how she ended up working there. I took notes, knowing that as an introverted writer, I needed to cultivate this verbal gift. As I relaunched my blog this year, trying to capture the extraordinary ordinary lives of folks around me, I’ve found my mother’s people techniques to be solid.

Just Stop, Drop & Roll With Good Conversations
Just Stop, Drop & Roll With Good Conversations

Here’s what I’ve learned from watching her:


My mother, a well-known botanist in the states, would stop what she was doing and just chat.

Her attention to detail made her pause and wonder about the person in front of her. Was this person happy or sad? What job did he or she have before this one at the store (or restaurant or gas station)? She paused and then asked him or her how things were going. She always received an honest answer right away because she shared how things were going with her. Mom knows everyone has a unique story to share if asked!


My mother the scientist watches and listens intently.

When out in the field, she drops to her knees to look at the plant she spotted, noting all the details she can.  With people, she drops everything and focuses in on the person before her. In chatting with the Disney clerk of retiree age, Mom asked her how she landed the dream job at Disney? The humor in the question sparked a three-minute honest answer. Mom just asked the intuitive question and then listened, interspersing a follow up question or two. The gift of gab is just as much about listening as talking, I learned.


Linda “Loot” Curtis finds a way to connect with each person’s story.

When we eat out together at local restaurants, Mom manages to get updates on the waitress, cook and owner before we leave and, in turn, they receive her and Dad’s update. By sharing pieces of her story, she reciprocates in the conversation. She finds out their dreams, whether it may be the waitress’ schooling, the retiree’s family or the gas attendant’s interests, and encourages each one in their journey.

As I’ve taken the time to meet new folks for coffee, asked a significant question of the bus driver or clerk helping me, or offered to bring a meal to a family in rough times, I’ve modeled my mother’s modus operandi. And it’s amazing how simple it is to stop and listen to the stories of ordinary folks like you and me. By jumping into their stories and sharing small pieces of her own, my mom manages to admire whatever is shared with her. And the power of validation is a gift in itself.

5 Minutes to Spare

As a 10-minute Novelist, I need to master this five-minute meet and greet. My mother recognizes the extraordinary ordinary and, as writers, so must we. Every person has a story to share and we can’t miss the chance to hear it. It may very well be our only opportunity! It’s when we stop, drop everything and roll with it that we can learn about the beauty of the ordinary in true life. Only then can we add into our characters the ordinary details of life that will forge a connection with our readers. Just as we need to take time to stop for the people who come into our lives, listening and validating each other along our journey, so do our characters.

TLC Nielsen has been following God since 1985, having way too many adventures in the process. Stepping up from parenting to grandparenthood while working on the next 30 years of marriage, TLC continues to play trombone in two big bands and enjoys working with kids at the local library. A Trinity International University alumni, former teacher and avid fantasy reader, Nielsen enjoys writing poetry, parenting books and children’s stories while working her way through her first fantasy novel, By Land or Sea. TLC posts true Extraordinary Ordinary stories on her blog the last day of each month, www.lookandbe.blogspot.com For more information on the fascinating botanist Linda W. Curtis, check out her website at www.curtistothethird.com 

Katharine Grubb is an author, poet, homeschooling mother, camping enthusiast, bread-baker, and believer in working in small increments of time. She leads 10 Minute Novelists, an international Facebook group of time-crunched writers. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.